Sunday, May 19, 2013

STEM conference - NSTA St. Louis day 2

     Day two started with a couple of vendor classes - not bad, but obvious sales pitches, and then came the teacher/school led classes.  
     My very first class was canceled, and we didn't know so were sitting there waiting. I finally gave up and went to my second choice called Robot Adventures, Scientist in Residence.  It was mostly about how a district in St. Louis was implementing STEM in a summer professional development model, and they spoke about their use of NXT robots. I did get a couple of ideas - like using them for area and perimeter, and then one lady shared that she had purchased shower board from the big box home store, and had them cut it into 3 large pieces to cover her tables.  She then used electrical tape to draw mazes for the robots, but more importantly the kids were required to do the rotation calculations on those tables.  They erase for the next class and the boards will fit right on top of the desks.  Worth it right there. 

     Then I hit pay dirt! My second class was from the lady at Venspired. I've been following her on twitter and facebook for awhile, so was pleasantly surprised to see she was teaching my class.  Her class was called 'STEMulate thinking with Project Based Learning, and she shared about 6 projects.  A couple of them I had done before, but several were new, or expanded upon, so I was stoked. Her links can be found at .  Check the left side for project descriptions
     At that point it was time for lunch, and I buzzed through about half of the vendors.  I met up with the other three teachers from my school, and we headed out for our lunch outing to the courthouse.  

     This courthouse was the original place where Dredd Scott was heard (the two slaves who sued for freedom because they were taken to a free state and didn't want to return).  Unfortunately the courtroom where it was heard is now two rooms and a hallway (the ceiling was sagging so the walls were necessary to maintain the structure).  The above photo is a replica of the original room, and also houses a lot of photos from the time period.  According to the ranger they didn't know at the time that it was going to be such a pivotal case, so very little was kept. Although honestly, how often does a courthouse replace the bench where cases are heard. I figured I was missing something in the history of this court. 

     We moved on into the rotunda, and I know you're wondering why my colleagues were lying on the floor....

     Well, how else do you take pictures of the dome?  

     Walking around upstairs I did see evidence of other "fixes" for sagging walls.  This beam (above) is reinforced with a giant bolt to keep the wall from collapsing.  The upstairs also housed two more replica courtrooms, and downstairs had a small museum of St. Louis life.

     By 3:00 I was back in a class called "Moving Beyond the Acronym.  It was an interesting take on STEM.  The leader of this class authored a book (I later purchased) called Everyday Engineering: Putting the E in STEM teaching and Learning.  Richard Moyer stood up front and led us through exercises involving ordinary objects (like a Bic pen).  The picture above was a quick lab using a protractor to measure the elevation at which the marble moves the index card the greatest distance (key to this one was folding the card lengthwise so the marble doesn't just blast right through the bottom).  

     My 4:15 class had a lot of possibilities. Teaching Science in Reading and Language Arts.  I've been on the prowl for novels with science themes running through them for my ELA class. In my experience finding the non-fiction is easy (and will be built up due to common core standards), but the fiction novels that are also examples of GOOD writing can be difficult.  While I didn't find any for my classroom, I did find a couple for 4th grade (City of Ember - duhhh. Why didn't I think of it and Walk Two Moons). One I might be able to use is from Eric Carle called 10 Little Ribber Ducks about the toys that were released into the Pacific Ocean and then ended up around the world thanks to ocean currents.  While I've always talked about those ducks and showed kids the websites marking where they were found, I haven't read this book as a hook before.  I'll have to find a copy in the library...... or Kindergarten to check out. 

     My 5:30 class was again TREMENDOUS.  I wish I felt that I could share her slides, but the ones I took pictures had her students in them and I don't feel that is ethical to share. BUT Elementary Students as Builders, Creators, and Innovators had a lot to offer. Melinda Huffman-Schwartz teaches at an Episcopal school as a STEM coordinator. Her students are K-4, and while I teach slightly older kids I now have a lot to share with my colleagues at lower levels.  I learned about the Lego Showcase Grant, the book Blocks and Beyond, found out about Lego grid paper, a book called Loco motion by Ed Sobey and the projects completed by students.  I also learned about saws and drills with guards that might benefit my kids with our pallets, and a circuitry product called Little Bitz that might be worth stocking up to maintain electronic practice learned in 4th grade.  This lady was a wealth of info for younger grades, and mentioned she might come check us out because she was headed to SC soon. *** Updated - some of her projects she shared can be found at

     By 6:30 when class got out I was pooped, but ready for dinner. I highly recommend the restaurant Mango (peruvian food) specifically the Lomo Saltado. YUM.

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